Sjogren’s Syndrome

Woman using eye drop, woman dropping eye lubricant to treat dry eye or allergy, sick woman treating eyeball irritation or inflammation woman suffering from irritated eye, optical symptomsSjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack and damage the glands that produce and control moisture in the body.

Sjögren’s is classified into two types: primary and secondary. In primary Sjögren’s, there are no other autoimmune diseases present. Secondary Sjögren’s is diagnosed in someone who also has other rheumatic conditions.

Parts of the body that are most affected by the disease are the eyes and mouth. However, the skin, joints, kidneys, nerves, lungs, and thyroid can also be impacted over time.

Dry eyes and mouth are the most common symptoms of Sjögren’s. But people living with the disease may also experience:

  • Tooth decay
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Dry skin
  • Skin rashes
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Muscle pain
  • Heartburn
  • Acid reflux
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light sensitivity

Health complications that could potentially develop as a result of  Sjögren’s include:

  • Lymphomas
  • Damage to the nervous system
  • Gastroparesis
  • Eye infections
  • Abnormal liver function
  • Irritable bowel
  • Yeast infections
  • Recurrent bronchitis

The cause of Sjögren’s syndrome is unknown. Research suggests that a combination of genetics, environment, and hormones may be linked. Certain factors can increase the risk of developing the disease.  These are:

  • Age – Sjögren’s is typically diagnosed in people older than 40
  • Gender- women are more likely than men to develop the disease
  • Rheumatic disease- having rheumatic conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Genetics- having one or both parents living with Sjögren’s

There is no cure for Sjögren’s syndrome; however, there are several ways to treat and manage the disease. Treatment may include medication, the use of artificial saliva or tears, the use of special moisturizers or lubricants, hormone therapy, or tear duct surgery.  Applying lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, increasing fluid intake, wearing protective glasses, increasing the humidity in your home, and reducing stress can help you manage symptoms.

If you are experiencing symptoms associated with Sjögren’s syndrome, please contact your doctor to schedule an examination. Your doctor may diagnose the disease by conducting blood tests, eye exams, x-rays, or biopsies.

To schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call 718-206-7001


All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.